Please welcome Diane Culver! Diane’s latest book, Christmas, Hamptons’ Style, will be releasing soon!
After spending 34 years as an awarding winning mathematics teaching, I was forced to retire due to a health issue. One of the items on bucket list was “write a book”. My dreams of being a true writer were quashed by my tenth grade English teacher who announced to the class, “Diane, I have an entire drawer of red pens reserved just for you.” So, I walked across the hall (it was a very small high school on the eastern end of Long Island) and went into HER husband’s class, who taught math, and fell in love with the subject. A math geek was born. At the age of 21, I moved from LI to snow country, outside of Syracuse, living here ever since….My, my, my. 153 inches of snow per year times 40 years = A LOT OF SNOW…and I hate any outdoor sports!!!! My books are designed to bring the Hamptons to people who can’t afford to go there. Heck, if my family still wasn’t there, neither could I! I love to dance to the Beatles (thank you to whomever invented Alexa) when the hubster’s not around. I “twist”, and sometimes “shout”, around my living room and writing study with a pad in my hand plotting out my next book/chapter. And there better be Baileys somewhere to put in my tea when I take a break!
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing since I was 12. Growing up in the Hamptons in the 60s and 70s, when the paparazzi did not exist, afforded me the opportunity to meet many famous people. As a matter of fact, Sir Richard Burton I guess I could say was my first “editor”. We used to meet on Sunday mornings and talked about the topics in my journals. When I graduated from high school, reality set. 1973 became the turning point where I knew I had to be self-sufficient and on my own with a job that paid money. But, I was still writing short stories and thoughts along the way.
Other than writing, what are some of your passions in life?
Passions. Well, when you get to be my age being above ground is a good thing. 🙂 I am a voracious reader, loving books that authors have written as sequels to Pride and Prejudice. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I cannot live without books.” Neither can I. I wish every wall in my home had shelves filled with books. I am inspired when I see people who have had to overcome adversity, living life as it was meant to be, looking towards the future, not back on what went wrong. I will readily admit I’ve had a few pity parties through the years, but realize there is a plan for me and I move on with my head held up a bit higher.
What was your debut novel, and how has your writing process changed since your debut?
It’s been five years since my novel LOVE ON THE RUN, Book One of my Hampton Thoroughbreds series, was published. There are two more, HURRICANE MEGAN, and the most recent, THE ROMANCE EQUATION, are now on the market. I find with each book, I grow as a writer. Remember, I have a mathematical brain trying to cross over to the creative side. That for me has been an exponential learning curve as I developed my writing skills along the way. I enhance my writing by attending conferences, taking on-line classes, and above all listening to what my readers want. Which brings me to my new book coming out at the end of October/beginning of November. I received a multitude of emails asking if I would take two secondary characters from Book 2 and 3 and “just give them a true HEA….at Christmas.” So hence, Christmas, Hamptons’ Style was born.
What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process and why?
There are a mass of stories that just keep rolling around in my head just waiting to be put on paper. They’ve been there since I was 12. When I write, my settings as I said, are in the Hamptons, so I am “home” once more, reliving life as a “townie”. Sometimes there are tears rolling down my cheeks when I develop certain characters or describe a setting —- my youth, and all the good memories — come back. I can see myself in the book. What makes me feel alive? I think it’s more like grateful to be given a second chance to be able to tell my stories although fictional in nature.
What is your most challenging part of the writing/publishing process and what do you do to make it easier?
As I said, since my brain functions mathematically (i.e. my grammar is really poor—I can never get the tense correct–and I don’t’ care—that’s why I have an editor/assistant 🙂 ) getting the creative juices flowing to write is challenging. I have, I think, made great strides since it all began. My first editor, Amy Garvey, sat with me at Applebee’s and said,” It has great bones. BUT——-, it’s about 37,000 words too short!” Kerplunk went my stomach. Let me share what happened before I say anything further. I had a stroke in my eyes in 2004. I was flat on my back for six months, couldn’t read, stand up, could only listen to TV. My friend, Avon author Gayle Callen, told me to get a recorder and start telling my story. So, to backtrack to your question, I record a lot of my stories to limit my time on the laptop, I hired an assistant who does all my formatting and “swag” for all the book signings. And I publish in LARGE PRINT. People love the fact I do that. My business, CULVER BOOKS has grown two-fold since we decided to go in that direction. If you are self-published, the most challenging part is making a plan AND a budget you can live with.
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you find balance?
My family (two sons, and a hubby= three kids, really) are grown and off to live lives of their own. (Yes, the hubby has grown up, too.) With my eyes, there is no “typical” day. It depends on the eyes in the morning. I wake up, listen to the school bus go by and wave from my bed. I get up, eat breakfast and see what we have planned for the day. Hint: NO Baileys in the morning tea….NOT good for later writing. After lunch, I settle in to work on my writing after watching my taped soap opera—making a “to-do” list of writing tasks. Everything from social media, updating the website, what chapter(s) I have to edit/write…..I settle in around 4 to get started, have dinner and spend from 7-9 writing, but I have been known, if the day is a good one, to write until 1 am. Then at bedtime, I settle in to read my latest book. I recently decided to join a pure mystery book club as mine are 75% mystery with the hero and heroine who have to live HEA or happily ever after, as we say.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A mess. I thought I could just send in my book to Harlequin and they would publish it on the spot. The letter came back, “Dear Diane: What you have written is truly a great story, one we really liked. But it is more for the seventies. It is now 2008. If you can do…..(there was a list). Please resubmit.” After 12 publishers, 10 who said I had to have an agent, I decided to self-publish book one. The rest is history. I still submit occasionally, but I don’t feel pressured. What would I say to my younger self—–“Write what you know.” “Blot out the negatives.” “Don’t read Amazon reviews.” Things I never expected: As a self-published author (even with an assistant) there is a lot of work to get my work out to the public, make the right contacts. I have to be the writer/ director of media relations and director of marketing all rolled into one. As my business grows, I am now slowly giving over small jobs, such website updating, to others whom I trust. And above all, I never expected to do as much research to find a good editor who meshes well with you and an assistant who can work within my budget.
What do you love about writing romance?
I was the girl in school who was never invited to the proms (I had my head in a book/ textbook). I was tall and thin and lanky and wasn’t asked to be part of the cool crowd, although I wouldn’t have chosen to join. I got stood up for my sorority formal my freshman year of college. My batting average with men was .000. I didn’t care, but in high school my mom gave me two books, one written by Georgette Heyer, and the other by Barbra Cartland, that I made me fall in love with romance. No more Nancy Drew. As mom said, “the clean kind.” It was when “Coffee, Tea, Or ME” was being passed around the locker room, I discovered a whole other side of romance novels where everything was, how shall I put it, “explained” not “inferred”. I was hooked. Romance books, no matter what genre you read (I’m more contemporary), make you feel your emotions from hating to loving to the breakups to the “I can’t live without you, Scarlett” moments. My heart feels all warm and fuzzy when I close the book.
What kinds of things do you find romantic in real life? Can you share a story?
My husband always gave me flowers on our anniversary (we are coming up on #38 on November 17th). I don’t know what happened, but the florist arrived at the door with a beautiful bouquet. I signed for it. My husband was still at work, so I opened the card and it says, “Love, Buck”. I refer to my husband as Bump. I read the card twice, the kitchen door opens, in walks Bump and he has no flowers in hand so I show him. Since that day, there is always a romantic card from Bump and some sort of funny gift or flowers from “Buck”….I’m not a jewelry wearing kind of girl——knowing he’s there, that he’s got my back, that he’s been a great father to my children. And he’ll be there in the end…..that’s what matters the most.
Do you read your book reviews? If so, how do they affect your writing (if at all)?
No……..Being self-published, I will NOT pay for a review from the various forums. As a matter of fact, my writer friends have said not to. “You shouldn’t have to pay for someone to review your book.” What matters to me are all the emails from my readers and I print out every one. Good or bad.
What is the craziest, funniest, or most surprising thing that has happened to you since publishing your first book?
I was home in the Hamptons and someone came up to me and whispered in my ear, “I know your secret.” I looked up and didn’t recognize the person, but it’s been a long time since I lived there. I said, “And what would that be?” From her purse, she pulled out my three books. “Hello…Diane. Could you autograph these for me? I heard you were going to have breakfast here this morning.” (It was then I recognized her voice as the girl in my high school who wouldn’t give me the time of day)…I don’t know, but I felt vindicated. The other surprise was seeing all three of my books in my hometown library as the “Featured Local Author”.
My new release is called CHRISTMAS, HAMPTONS’ STYLE. My brand is “Love, Hamptons’Style.” As I mentioned the story came from a request of many readers who loved the two secondary characters in Book 2 and 3. The underlying story to Hampton Thoroughbreds is there is a fictitious wealthy family called the Hallocks who live and work in Hampton Beach, all members of the Hampton social scene. The sister of the owner of the horse farm, Elizabeth, is the Director of the CIA. When her niece and nephews get into trouble she sends in a hand-picked agent to not only solve the crime but to match-make. In this book, Sarah Adams, an undercover agent, and Rick Stockton, butted heads throughout book 3, but unbeknownst to each other have fallen in love. This book picks up (no, you do not have to read book 3), picks up with Sarah having a secret and waiting to resign from the CIA and get as far away from Hampton Beach as she can get. Rick come to town for a Hillock family gathering hoping he can smooth over the waters of what happened between them — with a four-carat ring in his pocket. But, per usual, Elizabeth has A PLAN………..Why should you read it? If you love a good romance, which is this time more romance than mystery….and it’s a novella (but has birthed a new sub-series Spring, Hamptons’ Style, Summer, Hamptons’ Style, and Autumn, Hamptons’ Style) and you are looking for a good book to curl up by the fireplace with a cozy sherpa throw and a pot of Earl Grey tea (with Baileys)…..come along for the ride. A modern-day Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot Romance….
Is there any other news you would like to share?
New news——–I have two grand-dogs, Ginger and Cleo. I am looking for a dog who will cozy up over my feet while I write. I am part of a massive Authors’ Meet and Greet at the Baldwinsville Public Library on October 21st and will be speaking on what motivates me to write and why I want my books to be more than “just a good read”….And, believe it or not, my best audience, and I can’t keep up with the signings, are for assisted livings. And I just spoke to a group of nuns. yes, you read that correctly—they love romance. Go figure. I have a spectacular slideshow of the Hamptons courtesy of a great friend who’s a photographer so if you buy the airline ticket and pay hotel, I’m yours.
Five Facts Just for Fun!
1. What’s your favorite ’90s jam?
Okay—jam to me means jelly—beach plum. If you’re referring to music I’ll have to ask Alexa!!!
2. What was the last gift you gave someone?
A check—money talks!
3. What were you like as a kid?
4. What was the last thing you binge-watched & what did you think of it?
5. What is the one thing (other than your loved ones) that you cannot live without?
Earl Grey tea and chocolate (awarded when a chapter is edited and proofread)
BOOKS BY DIANE CULVER